This summer, multiplex audiences will meet Jake Gyllenhaal, prince of… geeks?
The Brokeback Mountain and Donnie Darko star may have buffed up and trained in gymnastics, sword-fighting, martial arts and parkour for his May 28 action-hero debut in the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, but Jake says he also prepared for the role by logging grueling daily sessions at the controller. Yes, the video game controller:
"I used to play the side-scrolling version of The Prince of Persia on the first Mac computer in elementary school," Gyllenhaal told journalists via Internet this weekend from London. "And then I took a 20-year hiatus from the game."
But once Gyllenhaal was cast as Prince Dastan, the dashing hero who goes on the lam with a beautiful enemy (Gemma Arterton) in pursuit of a magical gift from the gods, he returned to his childhood hobby—for purely professional reasons.
"It's a very difficult form of research," Gyllenhaal deadpanned. "Playing the game three or four times a day and getting paid to exercise—it was really tough."
The film hinges on a mystical dagger that can take its bearer backwards a full minute to change the course of recent events. But tapping into the all-powerful Sands of Time allows a person to travel back to any point in history. Like, say, the year 1989, when a young Jake could be found playing Jordan Mechner's original Prince of Persia game?
"I wish I could go back and tell that eight-year-old kid who was playing the game that, one day, twentysome odd years later, he would be playing the lead in a Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster movie based on that video game, and just see how his eyes would pop out of his head and how excited he would be," Gyllenhaal mused. "For me, that's kind of how I felt while I was making the movie; I felt like I was unlocking that piece of my childhood again. It was fun every day, running and jumping and fighting bad guys."
In other words, he was totally geeked.
Check out muscleman Jake's heroic competition in our Summer Movies 2010: Action! gallery.